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Old 06-14-2007, 04:20 PM   #1
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Default Just thinking out loud here- 50gal self-cleaning fermenter?

I recently got a new hot water heater installed. I am no longer bathing in StarSan. But that got me thinking...

Hot water heaters hold sanitized water, right? They heat it up to like 150 degrees, a pasteurization temp, and hold it there. Sooooo.....

Could you use a hot water heater as a self-sanitizing fermentation vessel? Of course, you would turn off the heat when fermenting, and you'd still need access to the top to clean it out... but it's probably stainless steel on the inside, right?

Now, I'm sure this has been tried before... and there's probably some good reasons that this would not work... but I can't think of any. Anybody else care to throw in their two cents?

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Old 06-14-2007, 09:53 PM   #2
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Nobody has any thoughts on this?

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Old 06-14-2007, 10:35 PM   #3
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um, I think many have had thoughts, its just that most of them would be rude.

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Old 06-14-2007, 10:42 PM   #4
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Are you thinking of using a gas hot water heater or electric?

Its been a while since I've looked closely at a hot water tank but...

Not positive that all hot water heaters have a stainless tank, I'd think they would be using a less expensive metal.

Obviously you would be removing the water out pipe, they go down from the top to take the hot water off of the bottom by the heating element. You would not need the pressure relief valve either. Other than those parts you would have a large pot.

You might run into some seams inside where the tank is assembled, I'm pretty sure they are not one peice or welded. Those seams might be hard to get cleaned out all the way, but... you are also able to get it up to a temp to kill a lot of bugs..

You might be able to get the temps when you clean it out even higher by some adjustments to the burner valve, I think there is a safety thing that does not allow the water to get up to boiling.

Interesting thought.. be easier to talk SWMBO into upgrading our hot water heater than it would be to convince her the need for buying a large fermentor like this! lol

Ray

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Old 06-14-2007, 10:58 PM   #5
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Try it out and let us know. Personally...my "thoughts" would be: why? If it's just out of curiosity, then go for it...but a couple things to ponder before you do so:

  1. How often are you going to be fermenting 50 gallons?
  2. Do you really want an ugly water heater sitting around taking up space on the off chance that you might brew a 45-gallon batch someday? Because you're not gonna wanna use the thing for small batches.
  3. How are you going to clean out a 50-gallon tank?
  4. How are you going to siphon from a 50-gallong tank?
  5. How are you going to create a seal on a 50 gallon tank?
  6. Do you really want to call a plumber back over to hook up the gas line again?
  7. If it's electric, do you really want to be trying to clean it out alot?
  8. Do you want me to continue?

Seriously, dude, it's your choice if you want to experiment. I'm just not optimistic.
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:59 PM   #6
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Yeah, I'm nowhere near ready to do 40 gallon batches, nor am I able/ready to take up that much of the basement on a permanent basis to do this experiment. It's a major commitment, for sure. But, a 40 gallon self-sanitizing fermenter for $350 sounds awfully appealing... And, if your hot water heater goes, you have a back up!!!

Now, about the large batch issue. Well, yes, 40 or 50 gallons is overkill. However, this is cheaper than a 10 gallon conical, so cost-wise it's a win, though you'd probably want to upgrade to 20+ gallon batches just to justify the size. That's ok though. I could invite friends over.

Cleaning could be done with a toilet brush on a long handle or a mop or whatever. Sanitation would be automatic, just fill it with water, heat it, and let it sit for 12 hours.

You don't need to siphon from a water heater, they have their own valve at the bottom! Just open it up!

Creating a seal isn't difficult. It doesn't have to hold more than a fraction of a psi. Lots of off-the-shelf rubber gasket material could do the trick.

Calling a plumber to hook up the gas line? Well, it's still cheaper than buying a large conical...

If it's electric, I dunno, are they hard to clean out? I never had an electric one before.

I think that's all the issues you've brought up so far. I'm not saying my "solutions" are simple as pie, but they are, I believe, within the realm of simple feasibility. So, Yes, please... continue.



Edit to add: One other thought... in some European countries, you are taxed based on the size of your water heater. I wonder if you could find a 10 or 20 gallon one somewhere? That would be even better!!!

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Old 06-14-2007, 11:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damn Squirrels
Yeah, I'm nowhere near ready to do 40 gallon batches, nor am I able/ready to take up that much of the basement on a permanent basis to do this experiment. It's a major commitment, for sure. But, a 40 gallon self-sanitizing fermenter for $350 sounds awfully appealing... And, if your hot water heater goes, you have a back up!!!
It's appealing until you realize that this thing would have to stationary. And self-sanitizing doesn't mean self-cleaning. You'd have to soak it with oxyclean or PBW, then scrub it, then SIPHON all that out, each time. Whew.
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XX: Moss Hollow Springs Sparkling Water 95: Gott Mit Uns German Pils 91b: Brown Willie's Oaked Abbey Ale 103: Merkin Stout
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan!
It's appealing until you realize that this thing would have to stationary. And self-sanitizing doesn't mean self-cleaning. You'd have to soak it with oxyclean or PBW, then scrub it, then SIPHON all that out, each time. Whew.
No... you could soak it with water.. you wouldn't have to use oxyclean or anything. Just scrub it with plain water... the sanitation will come when you heat the water. As for draining it, I have a drain in the middle of the basement. Just run a hose from the water heater, directly down the drain. I wouldn't even need a pump!!!
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:14 PM   #9
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Every dead water heater I've ever seen was chock full of rust. EDIT: also sand.
Some of them are glasslike inside, like an old school thermos.

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Old 06-14-2007, 11:17 PM   #10
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http://home.howstuffworks.com/water-heater1.htm

Quote:
A heavy inner steel tank that holds the hot water

Typically, this tank holds 40 to 60 gallons. It has to be able to hold the pressure of a residential water system, which typically runs at 50 to 100 pounds per square inch (psi). The tank is tested to handle 300 psi. The steel tank normally has a bonded glass liner to keep rust out of the water.
I guess when that cracks...rust.
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